Alex Rudnicki, the Tsinghua-MIT Global MBA Program, Class of 2019
On Sept 9, 2017, the Opening Ceremony of 2017 Tsinghua-MIT Global MBA Program was successfully held in Tsinghua SEM. 80 students from 16 countries join in the family of Global MBA, and they will spend two-year study life here.Alexander Marley Rudnicki gave the following speech as the freshmen representative:
Alex Rudnicki 倪睿林 - GMBA ‘17
Wǒ xiǎng yòng hànyǔ kāishǐ. Wǒ shì wǔ yuè cóng měiguó bān dào běijīng lái de. Wǒ yǐqián cónglái méi xuéguò zhōngwén. Xīwàng míngnián wǒ kěyǐ yòng hànyǔ gěi dàjiā zuò yǎnjiǎng. Xiànzài wǒ xūyào shuō yīngyǔ, xièxiè nǐmen! （我想用汉语开始。我是五月从美国搬到北京来的。我以前从来没学过中文，希望明年我可以用汉语给大家做演讲。现在我需要说英文，谢谢你们。）
When thinking about what I should say today, I asked some of my classmates. They told me, “Oh you know, talk about yourself, what’s your background, what you want to do in the future.”
The problem is, as I sat down to write that speech, I realized that if I talk about myself I’ll probably have people in this room falling asleep on me. My name is Alex, I’ve come to Tsinghua from San Francisco. I promise I will bore you all with a few more of my own personal details, but I’ll save that for later.
Instead, I’d like us focus on something more important: why are we here?
MBA students all over the world will begin their programs soon. All of them, including all of us in this room, are spending huge amounts of valuable time and energy into these programs.
Why? Probably, most of us would say it is to network and grow together, both personally and profes-sionally.
We’ve already started with our orientation, losing sleep over our TechMark spreadsheets, scaling walls in our offsite. Today is another chance to extend that network to both full-time and part-time MBAs.
But what does networking really mean for us?
In America, the word networking has a somewhat transactional tone: I do something for you, then you do something for me.
Since coming to China, people have introduced me to the Chinese concept of guanxi. From what I understand, it seems to have a much greater, more positive meaning than the Western idea of networking. Guanxi is not just a relationship based on mutual benefit, but also on trust and common understanding. This can only come with time and curiosity to truly know one another.
In this program, we have 2 years to begin this process. If we use this time wisely, we will have a great base for relationships that can grow and last for the rest of our careers, and for the rest of our lives.
What stories will we create together over that time? Who in this room will call their classmate in 5, 10, or 20 years to congratulate them on taking their company public? Or to propose that they start a join venture together? Or to celebrate a great personal milestone, like a wedding, a new child, grand-children?
So how do we begin to build this trust and common understanding and reach our potential as a class?
We won’t get there simply by going to class together until Tsinghua gives us a degree. The group projects, dinners, and parties are a good start to our journey together, but those activities alone are also not enough.
We need to be curious. We need to learn what our classmates are truly passionate about, what problems they care about solving.
By being accepted into Tsinghua, we have already won the lottery. We have an opportunity in front of us that millions of people dream of having. From here, with a little ambition none of us will have a problem living comfortably.
Each of us is lucky that we can ask ourselves “Other than money, what else do I care about?” And we should try to understand how our classmates answer this question.
Last week, I asked my Chinese classmate why he decided to join this class. He told me he has recently started his own international real estate brokerage. He said the connections and education he will get at Tsinghua will help this business flourish. Then I asked him, after it takes off and is successful, what will you do? He told me that eventually he wants to create an organization to plant trees in his hometown in Northwest China so that it doesn’t become a desert. Just by understanding both his immediate plans as well as his dream and what is driving him, I feel like our relationship is one step closer. Maybe I am not the person who is best able to help him achieve these dreams, but I’m sure someone in this room right now is.
At lunch last week during our off campus trip, one of my Chinese classmates asked me why I decided to come to Tsinghua. I told him that I’ve come to China to help its best tech companies export their innovations to the world.
I grew up in San Francisco, and have lived in California most of my life. Growing up, with Silicon Valley in my backyard, I had only one choice - to join the tech revolution after graduation. I worked at Yelp, the Dazhong Dianping of America, for 4 years as a sales manager before coming to Beijing.
I told him that after 4 years of deal-making on the ground floor, I want to make bigger deals at a strategic level, helping companies like Alibaba and Tencent expand outside of China. Traveling the world while making a living this way would be a great life to me.
Normally the conversation would stop there, but what he did next surprised me and made a strong impression - he asked me “Why?” Why do I care about this problem?
I told him I care because I believe that sharing the best technology creates a better world for all humans, and by growing closer America and China can avoid conflict and continue to grow peacefully together. He then graciously offered to put me in touch with someone who can help me get started.
This is the true potential of this network - that we can all help each other to solve the problems that we care about most. And the key to that is each of us being truly interested in what our classmates are passionate about.
Today, at our Gala next week, over the years of this program and beyond, we have the opportunity to add to our guanxi network. To build relationships that will help us realize our dreams, and to help others pursue their own. So as we have a good time, full time and part time students meeting for the first time, don’t simply ask what your classmate wants to do. Let’s also understand “Why?” Why each of us is here. By understanding each other more deeply, we can begin to build those relation-ships which will be the greatest return on our investment in these two years at Tsinghua.
Thank you very much